Of all the big announcements coming out of this year’s San Diego Comic Con, it was a teaser image for the coming line of X-Men titles that grabbed most of my attention. This shouldn’t come as much of a surprise since I’m a big fan, but the image got me to thinking about the long history of ultra-wide X-Men images I seem to go crazy for. What is it about these things that I love so much?
It all began with Jim Lee’s X-Men triptych poster set. Released in 1990 to tease what was in store for the X-Men in the coming year, the center panel could be found hanging wherever I was calling home for many years. It seems like a lifetime ago and I wasn’t even able to find an image of the original in my searching. I may have actually found an improvement when I came across this amazing recolored tribute image by Marc Borstel.
Not long after the trio of posters, we got another panorama image from Lee in the wrap-around-double-gatefold cover to 1991′s X-Men #1. In many ways this was an homage to 1963′s X-Men #1 with the team attacking Magneto, just with a much larger cast.
This month’s latest X-Men #1 upped the stakes by featuring a five-panel-gatefold as one of its various covers. The image by Paco Medina features characters bursting through the panels of the Jim Lee cover, but lacks some of the dynamic of the image it references. The panels for this cover were originally released as teasers for the new book with their inclusion of some characters not normally associated with the X-Men line (i.e Spider-Man, Blade, She-Hulk). While these were high profile, it’s interesting that the cover was next to impossible to find, a stark contrast to the abundance of #1′s lying around in 1991. To Marvel’s credit, they actually gave away folded posters of the image on the day of the book’s release.
We’ve been seeing images like these a fair bit recently, but 199 issues of X-Men passed before David Finch’s mega cover to X-Men #200, reminding me of just how much I love this kind of stuff. What makes this image even more incredible than the others is the fact that every character that has been a part of the X-Men team is pictured. Originals, giant-size replacements, 90′s fill-ins, modern mutants and retconned bronze-agers are all there. I even went so far as to get a framed print of this to display in my home (thanks, Angie).
The Finch stuff didn’t stop there as a set of five interlocking covers to X-Men: Legacy a few months later gave another retrospective on heroes and villains alike. These covers really fit well with the direction the book was taking at the time, as Professor Xavier revisited many of his past failures and triumphs in his journey to rebuild his mind.
At this year’s San Diego Comic Con, Marvel unveiled a new image in the same vein from Marko Djurdjevic. Again the idea here was to tease some of the upcoming storylines for the X-Men titles and this image will be broken into interlocking covers for 6 books. Nothing has been announced but I would imagine we’ll see these images as the covers to Uncanny X-Force #1, Wolverine #1, X-Men #3, Generation Hope #1, X-23 #1 and Daken #1 this Fall. I’m most looking forward to the return of Havok and Polaris.
The ultra wide images are not limited to X-Men with this latest go round as new images for the Avengers and Spider-Man have also popped up. While they don’t thrill me the way the X-Men images do, I’m still a sucker for all of this kind of stuff.
UPDATE: The Avengers images were used as variant covers coinciding with the dawn of Marvel’s Heroic Age and appeared on Hawkeye & Mockingbird (2010) #1, Avengers Academy #1, New Avengers (2010) #1, Avengers (2010) #1, Secret Avengers #1, and Avengers: Prime #1 respectively. The Spider-Man images appeared as regular covers for the thrice-monthly Amazing Spider-Man #642-647 during Mark Waid’s “Origin of the Species” arc.